From the “Further Readings” section at the back of Paul Collin’s wonderful Banvard’s Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn’t Change The World:
There is one very simple way to see what Beach’s railway [19th century New York’s secret, unfinished pneumatic subway] looked like, and blown up far larger than any plate in this book could manage. Go to a Subway shop–the fast-food chain, you know, where you can buy a six-inch Cold Cut Trio?–and lo! Pasted upon the walls are pictures of Beach’s invention. Whoever was designing the chainwide decor for Subway simply clipped out a bunch of old public-domain illustrations of subways, including three that originally ran in Scientific American in the 1870s. Look for the pictures that depict an almost perfectly round (save for a slight groove in the bottom) brick-lined subway tunnel, and a rounded subway car interior. These are Beach’s own handpicked illustrations for what was to be an ultra-million-dollar venture. Graze pensively on your Baked Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion chips. Ponder the vagaries of ambition.
O. Henry, “The Duel” (1910):
Your opponent is the City. You must do battle with it from the time the ferry-boat lands you on the island until either it is yours or it has conquered you. The battle is to decide whether you shall become a New Yorker or turn the rankest outlander and Philistine. You must be one or the other. You cannot remain neutral.
John Berger, “Keeping a Rendezvous” (1987):
Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.
To which some droll New Yorker replied: “Albany is an old man in a deli, trying to send back soup.”
Walt Whitman, “Song of the Broad Axe” (1856):
The great city is that which has the greatest men and women. If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole world.
All yoinked from the most recent Lapham’s Quarterly.
London, Ontario is of course a student with Ugg boots and big sunglasses. (I kid because I love.)
Dr. Johnson to Boswell: “Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say.”
(Yoinked from The Wreck of the Henry Clay, the tremendous paper and ink version of Caleb Crain’s Steamboats Are Ruining Everything.)
Another blast from my blogging past, this one from a long time ago in a Livejournal far, far away: Alec Guinness on Star Wars, The Simpsons, syphilis, and Marlene Dietrich’s alien lover.
[Edited to add: Hey, Carrie Fisher has a blog!]
Guinness is Good for You
What the hell, it’s Canada Day, I can re-recycle my alternate Canadian histories from six (egad) years ago.